Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Accountancy


This thesis is a representation of a "critical accounting study" and is not only concerned with an understanding of the problematic "knowledge claim" but also examining the fabrication of accounting knowledge within a particular organisational and social context. This study supports the view: 'how little we know about the actual functioning of accounting systems in organisations' (Hopwood 1979, p145, cf. Burchell et al, 1980, Cooper 1981, Berry et al 1985, Laughlin 1987, Booth 1991, Preston et al, 1992, Chua 1993). As well, this study assumes that the roots of other meaningful yet uncertain social and political considerations of the actual functioning of accounting are in organisation(s). Moreover, central to this research programme is the belief that embarking on a major study is dependent upon the way in which the researcher (1) resolves the theoretical and epistemological disputes in 'the doing of research' (Chua 1988b) and (2) relates that to the analyses at the 'action-oriented' level - that is, at the level of empirical investigation.

An understanding is that the research strategies and the theoretical stance of 'mainstream accounting research' (cf Chua 1986), generally known as positivistic research, is limited in carrying out research on 'accounting-in-action'. Rather, the 'critical accounting' research is seen to have much more to offer in researching in such a context. Not only are the theoretical stance and research strategies of the critical accounting research diverse, they are growing. As a propaedeutical reflection, thus, the first part of this study is initially involved with an alternative theoretical discourse in understanding the problematic "knowledge claim" and the consideration of a socio-theoretical rationality in the doing of critical accounting research. In particular, at the propaedeutic level, the study adopted the Habermasian critical theory approach for such an understanding (cf, Habermas 1974, 1979, 1984, 1987). At another level, it adopted the work informed by Latour (1987) and that of his colleagues for a further understanding of the non-positivistic methodological corollaries to frame the 'methodical discretion' of the field study (cf, Preston et al, 1992, Chua 1993).

On the basis of the framework and the understanding that has been advanced in the first part, the second part of the thesis represents a critical ethnography on fabricating the cost management and other systems in an Integrated Business System (IBS) environment, at BHP's Slab and Plate Products Pivision (BHP-SPPP - an Australian based company). Not only is such an ethnography concerned with the fabrication of CMS using the SAP commercial softwares, but also provides insights for understanding the emergence of such a change, that is, h o w new technological possibilities can persuade accounting knowledge in such a setting. It also provides an historical prelude with elaborations of various discursive conditions and events that might be seen as attempting or giving rise to the development and improvement of cost management and other systems at BHP-SPPP.